Calcified Tissue International

, Volume 79, Issue 3, pp 129-137

First online:

The Pathogenesis, Epidemiology and Management of Glucocorticoid-Induced Osteoporosis

  • T. P. van StaaAffiliated withUtrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht UniversityMRC Resource Centre in Epidemiology, University of SouthamptonGeneral Practice Research Database, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency Email author 

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Oral glucocorticoids (GCs) are frequently used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or asthma. They have adverse skeletal effects, primarily through reductions in bone formation and osteocyte apoptosis. Several findings indicate that changes in the quality of bone may significantly contribute to the increased risk of fracture and that loss of BMD only partially explains the increased risk of fracture in oral GC users. Epidemiological studies have found that the increases in the risk of fracture in oral GC users are dose dependent and occur within three months of starting GC therapy. Daily doses of >2.5 mg prednisone equivalent have been associated with increases in the risk of fractures and randomised studies reported adverse skeletal effects with daily doses as low as 5 mg. After discontinuation of GC treatment, the risk of fracture may reduce towards baseline levels unless patients previously used high cumulative doses of oral GCs. Users of inhaled GCs have also an increased risk of fracture, especially at higher doses. But it is likely that this excess risk is related to the severity of the underlying respiratory disease, rather than to the inhaled GC therapy. It has been recommended that patients who start on oral GC therapy should receive calcium and vitamin D supplementation. Patients with a higher risk of fracture should also receive a bisphosphonate.


Glucocorticoids Corticosteroids Osteoporosis Fracture Iatrogenic disease